Summary of 12 Years A Slave

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Solomon Northup was born a free man in Minerva, New York, in 1808. Little is known about his mother, whom his narrative does not identify by name. His father, Mintus, was originally enslaved to the Northup family from Rhode Island, but he was freed after the family moved to New York. As a young man, Northup helped his father with farming chores and worked as a raftsman on the waterways of upstate New York. He married Anne Hampton, a woman of mixed (black, white, and Native American) ancestry, on Christmas Day, 1829. They had three children together. During the 1830s, Northup became locally renowned as an excellent fiddle-player. In 1841, two men offered Northup generous wages to join a traveling musical show, but soon after he accepted,…show more content…
Persuaded by William Ford that killing Northup will only bring him the condemnation of his peers as well as financial loss, Tibeats hires Northup out to cut sugarcane in the "Big Cane Break" farther down the Red River. Around this time, Northup learns that Eliza has died of malnourishment and grief at the loss of her daughter (pp. 159-160). Soon afterwards, Tibeats sells Northup to Edwin Epps, a "repulsive and coarse" cotton planter whom Northup describes as being devoid of any redeeming qualities.(p. 162). The second half of Northup's narrative is chiefly devoted to describing life on a cotton plantation. He provides detailed descriptions of the processes of planting, cultivating, and picking cotton (pp. 163-168), character sketches of his fellow slaves (pp. 185-190), and gradations of punishment for various offenses (pp. 179-180). As he was periodically hired out to sugar plantations as well, Northup describes the methods of planting, harvesting, and processing the cane in similar detail (pp. 208-213). Though his account reveals the misery and despair of field slaves, like many other slave narratives, it also reflects the wry humor with which Northup endured his situation. For example, in describing the meager rations allotted for each week's subsistence, he quips that "no slave of [Edwin Epps's] is ever likely to suffer from the gout, superinduced by excessive high living" (p. 169). Likewise, he begins his description
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